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EP378: Scout

By Bud Sparhawk
Read by Corson Bremer

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All stories by Bud Sparhawk

 

Scout
By Bud Sparhawk

Captain Sandels came in during prep.  “Falcon,” he said, but softly, as if he didn’t want to disturb the techs working on squeezing me into the bomb casing.  I twittered our channel and winked: Kind of busy right now. Something come up?

“No,” the captain responded, again so softly that I knew he definitely didn’t want the techs to overhear.  The only reason I could hear him was that my acoustic enhancements were so sensitive that I could hear a mouse fart from a klick away.  “I just wanted to wish you luck.”

For making it back? I answered.  Not likely.

“That’s brutal,” he replied and I heard his pain. “I thought that, after all we. . .’

I stopped him there.  I’m not Falcon; just a revised edition.

“So it’s just goodbye, then?”

Sure.  I closed the channel before he could say anything else.  What I don’t need now is some damn puzzling reference to a past that no longer concerned me. Better not to dwell on the past.  Given humanity’s precarious state, sentiment was dangerous.  Besides, I had to concentrate on my scouting mission. We had to learn more about the aliens on the planet below.

I shut everything but the maintenance channel as they oozing the cushioning gel around me.  Its plasticity enfolds me in a warm, soft embrace that creeps into every crack and crevice, sealing me off from sight and sound and every sense save an assurance of my own humanity.  My form might be much reduced, to be sure, but nevertheless I retain my inherent humanity.

“We’re closing the lid,” the tech reports over the maintenance channel.

It’s time for sleep.  Landing will wake me up.

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EP136: Bright Red Star

By Bud Sparhawk.
Read by Paul Haring (of Escape Pod Classic).
First appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, March 2005.

Survivors isn’t exactly the word. What they found were sixteen bodies without arms, legs, and most organs. What remained were essentially heads hooked up to life support and fueled by oxygenated glucose pumps. There were a couple hundred strands of glass fibre running from the ship’s walls into each skull, into each brain, into each soul. Four of the sixteen were still functioning–alive is not a word to describe their condition.

There was no hesitation on the part of Command. They ordered everyone, except combat types like us, from the most likely targets. Humanity couldn’t allow any more people to become components for the Shardie offense.

But civilians never listen. Farmers were the worse, hanging onto their little plots and crops until somebody dragged them away, kicking and screaming at the injustice of it all. That’s why we were here. Forty settlers had stupidly refused to be evacuated from New Mars. Forty we didn’t know about until we got that one brief burst.

My mission was to make certain that they didn’t become forty armless, legless, gutless, screamless weapon components.

Rated R. Contains strong violence and heavy moral themes.

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